The house is a bit of chaos, piled with boxes, the litter of yet another move. I long ago lost track of how many places I’ve lived, so this is all quite familiar. I’m rather expert on packing things in boxes. Next week it’ll all get shoved in a truck and driven 10 or so miles to another place, a little two story storage shed of a sort, where we’ll spend the next year. New place will be bigger by maybe almost 50%, is more centrally located in city so the punishing thought of an hour each way to do more or less anything will be cut in half, and it is cheaper. Or in Korean fashion, almost free: here you can put down a fat deposit, returnable on departure, and have no rent. Just what they do with the money to make this a paying proposition for the landlord, I don’t know. But it is normal here. So all these boxes will be moved along, and the next day Marcella and I will get to the airport and fly to London where we have 9 days to see friends, go to museums, plays, and such, and then on to Galway, Ireland. There we show some films – Marcella’s first feature, Landing in the Morning Calm, and then a film we did together, a documentary portrait of Steve Lack entitled Rant, and then the little throw-away short, Mr Right.
Landing in the Morning Calm, by Marcella Di Palo Jost
The occasion for the screenings is the Galway Film Fleadh, a festival. A friend of mine in Ireland, Joe Comerford, tried for some years to get me invited, and this year they finally did so. I confess I did a little of the final bit myself, more or less inviting Marcella and myself. We’ll be doing a 5 day workshop too, with, if all goes well, a public screening on the last day of the festival of the things made. So it should be a busy time. Afterward we’ll take a week to see the Irish west coast, and I hope to do a bit of shooting with the new Excam. Landscapes I think, but we’ll see what we see. Taking a little tripod, and some cheaper storage chips that I got after some web-research: 16 gig chips for $100 rather than Sony’s proprietary ones for $500 for 8 gigs. After Ireland we fly to Bologna to visit Marcella’s sister in Rimini, and some other relatives near Bologna. I’ll make sure to go to Ravenna, to which I’ve never been, to see the mosaics. And perhaps to Rome to shoot a quick film, though I think better to pass on that for now. Then down to Matera in Basilicata, where we’ll nose around the region, while Marcella visits parents. I return to Seoul end of August, and Marcella will stay on another month to be with family a bit.
Marcella’s film was casually pieced together, initially without a real intention to make a proper film, just shooting with a cluster of Americans living in Seoul, using a little Sony HDR HC9, with its on-board mikes. After a bit this began to form into a film, in which Marcella and her friend Amber Hill, who plays a lead role, collaborated in developing a minimal bit of story, and in the span from October to March, a film emerged. I think it came out quite well, an interesting glimpse into the lives of these 20-somethings out in the larger world while still cocooned inside their youthful incestuous smaller one. Luckily a number of them are musically talented, which Marcella put to good use. Landing has been sent to a number of festivals, and we’ll see how many take it.
Landing in the Morning Calm
Rant was shot in two bursts, back in 2006-07, on a whim. I’d met Steve Lack originally when making All the Vermeers in New York, in which he was the lead actor. We got along well, and on my visits to New York afterward I’d try to see him. At some point we rather casually thought to make a portrait, and on the next visit, we – Marcella and I – started to shoot – just goofing around without too much forethought aside from my decision to shoot most of it in a slow shutter mode, to have a “painterly” kind of imagery which I thought would be fitting to his work. Marcella edited the first chunk, and we decided we needed more to fill it out, and on another visit to the East Coast we spent 5 days hanging around with Steve, going upstate to his house and studio near Saratoga, and got another sizable chunk. Steve digitized pictures of his paintings, we got his son Asher’s first album, Reichenbach Falls, with his band Ravens and Chimes (very nice music) and Marcella set down again to wrestle it into form. About a year ago it got pretty much finished, running just over 60 minutes. But somehow it didn’t quite work, being a little too soft. We sat on it a while, and then I took a look at some material Marcella hadn’t included (or, as it turns out, even looked at), and without changing much in her edit, I added a few things that seemed to give the film a needed bit of bite. Now runs 87 minutes. It was pretty much a 50/50 collaboration between Marcella and me, in all senses. I shot most of it, Marcella did a bit of camera too, she edited mostly, and I added a bit. It’s our film. And of course, Steve’s.
Mr Right was shot last year with my students at Yonsei, a little sketch of the lives of these students, revolving mostly around the matter of love, getting married, under the pressures of Korean cultural norms. It screened at the Rotterdam festival this year in the context of an omnibus work including 2 other 30 minutes shorts done by my students, titled Love in the Shadows.
However, out in the larger world, while we may imagine moving time, it is much more that time moves us. Currently playing out in the world’s attention is the drama in Iran, seemingly heading toward some kind of conclusion. Listening to the night-time chants of Allah Akbar, echoing from the rooftops and windows of the city, there is a sense of the organic communal life where hidden in anonymity, the many become one. Those in power surely must find this sound haunting and deeply threatening:
Just as the populace finds these men threatening.
basij militia, the police force of the political powers of Iran
Off stage, at least to much of the world, another confrontation is occurring, one which, however seemingly distant, is directly enmeshed in each of us: as with the conflicts in the Nigerian delta over oil extraction, this one, in Peru, has to do with the re-ordering of indigenous cultures – or of wiping them out – in the interests of corporate powers extracting raw materials to support our “modern lifestyle.” This is the price:
On a more “personal” level, this past week a cousin of mine died, Cis Porter-Chambers. She was my age, give or take a year, and had lived what I suppose was a thwarted life. She wanted to be a writer. She became a mother, had her children abducted by her husband, and then was estranged from them (in a scenario a bit normal for those – like the mother of my daughter Clara – who seize their children like objects, keeping the other parent from contact, and then indoctrinate them as they will). For the past years Cissie struggled to stay afloat, and then a year or so ago was hospitalized with colon cancer, had a good piece removed, and then last week was hospitalized again with infection which overwhelmed her. She had found an English teaching job at a community college which she liked and had begun to think of writing, started a blog. And life is sometimes cruel.
Paintings by Steve Lack
And now back to the boxes and the myriad last minute things of setting off for a trip.